Thursday, March 31, 2016

Once Upon a Dream ~ Liz Braswell (earc) review [@LizBraswell @DisneyHyperion[

Once Upon a Dream (A Twisted Tale #2)
Disney Press
April 05, 2016
448 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon



What if the sleeping beauty never woke up? Once Upon a Dream marks the second book in a new YA line that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways.

It should be simple--a dragon defeated, a slumbering maiden, a prince poised to wake her. But when said prince falls asleep as soon as his lips meet the princess's, it is clear that this fairy tale is far from over.

With a desperate fairy's last curse infiltrating her mind, Princess Aurora will have to navigate a dangerous and magical landscape deep in the depths of her dreams. Soon she stumbles upon Phillip, a charming prince eager to join her quest. But with Maleficent's agents following her every move, Aurora struggles to discover who her true allies are, and moreover, who she truly is. Time is running out. Will the sleeping beauty be able to wake herself up?
If you are looking for the classic fairy tale - or even a retelling of that - where the prince gives Sleeping Beauty 'true love's kiss,' she wakes up and they live happily ever after . . .


Once Upon a Dream isn't that. It is, however, what you want if you're looking for a bit of a twist on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. It's not a damsel-in-distress-of-a-princess-waiting-around-for-her-prince-to-save her tale, rather it's a story of a princess getting a bit proactive in her rescue.

Despite the differences, it is still very much a fairy tale. Aurora is still cursed, still pricks her finger on a spindle, falls into a sleep and needs to be saved to prevent something dire.


The way things beyond those basic elements were different was done very nicely. This way, Maleficent is the savior of the castle and Aurora - but still not quite the good guy. It takes some time, but Aurora finally starts to see things as they are, not as Maleficent has tried to convince her they are. It is all in her mind, a dream, and she has to navigate that world,  figuring out who she is and avoiding and or circumventing Maleficent's different attempts to stop them.

(No, there's no cheese in the book but any dream world seems to make me think of this)
I loved that this was a dream world, in Aurora's mind. It not only means that different rules apply and that those you're used to, no longer apply, but it means that it was in Aurora's mind. It lets readers - and Aurora - learn more about herself. She has to untangle her past, with its mixture of real but hidden and present but fabricated memories. It is an interesting voyage into a world of unexpected often dangerous things, self discovery for Aurora and possibly a real relationship between Aurora and Prince Philip.

I like that this was a fairy tale with the idea of love at first sight, happily ever after, fairies, princesses, and curses but more modern, as well, with Aurora not sure who she was but also taking a role in her (and everyone's) rescue, in being a strong, smart character. It was also great that, while still having those fairy tale elements, it dealt with Aurora's mental health and how her past (real and fictitious) played into their attempts to defeat Maleficent, wake Aurora and save the kingdom.
I definitely pictured Maleficent like the character from the Maleficent movie:

and Aurora a bit like that character:


but also a bit more grown-up and not quite such a dainty, spinning, smiling, carefree girl:


 Once Upon a Dream is a fun twist on the Sleeping Beauty story with a different, well developed world for Aurora, where that different, imagined upbringing plays fully into who she is and how she's rescued - or does some rescuing. It' is an enjoyable read.







received for review, via NetGalley, from publisher

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Once Was a Time ~ Leila Sales (earc) review [@LeilaSalesBooks @ChronicleBooks]

Once Was a Time
Chronicle Books
April 05, 2016
272 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.


Once Was a Time is a time travel book more about time travel than time travelling - and more about friendship than either of them.

Charlotte and her best friend Kitty love hearing Charlotte's father speak about time travel. They know it's top secret and they can't tell anyone, know that even Charlotte's siblings aren't sure they believe him, but the girls believe. Whether they actually would travel to another time and place given the opportunity is uncertain but they love hearing about the possibility.

How time travel actually takes place in Once Was a Time is different from what I've read in other novels. Here it doesn't involve magic or fancy machines, but physics and maybe chance. What readers and the characters know of its possibility and what it would mean sets things up nicely when Charlotte faces her dilemma.

There seemed to be very little adjustment once Charlotte found herself alone, away from her father and Kitty. It seemed to fit, though, with her character's age, the book and the different passages of time between chapters.

I liked the focus on Charlotte, her adjustment, her guilt that she is on her own and by her own choosing, and the decisions all of that leads her to make. I did not always understand her reasoning but liked seeing how it played out in who she was and what she did. It is a more fantastical basis, to be sure, but what she does was very realistic for middle school (even without any time travel involved).

Her love of books and reading and how it's never quite the 'cool' thing but still something there for her no matter the when was great. When the library - and all that takes place in and around/about it - is added in, it was even better. It was a nice side to Charlotte's personality executed very well.

I really enjoyed Charlotte's story, about her friendship with Kitty, the similarities she sees in children her age across time, the decisions she makes, how she feels about them and her conviction never to give up on her best friend. We learn a lot about Kitty, how to treat others and the not so great choices that can be made with good intentions. And that, hopefully, it's never too late to right some wrongs.






received from publisher, for review, via NetGalley

Waiting On Wednesday [@APitcherAuthor @LBKids]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:



SILENCE IS GOLDFISH by Annabel Pitcher

My name is Tess Turner--at least, that's what I've always been told.
I have a voice but it isn't mine. It used to say things so I'd fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn't. It lied.
It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too.

Fifteen-year-old Tess doesn't mean to become mute. When she discovers that her dad isn't her biological father, at first she's just too shocked to speak. But quickly she begins to see the benefit of silence. She can protect herself from the questions she's too afraid to ask. It frustrates the heck out of her parents. And it also gets the attention of her handsome Math teacher, Mr Holdsworth...
Tess sets out to discover the identity of her real father. But when trouble strikes and everything spirals out of control, how can she ask for help when she's forgotten how to use her voice?



published May 17th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo // or Amazon


Why?

First, we can agree that Annabel Pitcher has the best book titles, yes? Ketchup Clouds and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, and now Silence is Goldfish? (I know, I know, they changed Ketchup Clouds to Yours Truly but I'm sticking with Ketchup Clouds.

Besides that, though, I have really loved her novels. They're about things we don't often see - a girl who's writing to a death row prisoner, a boy who's sister, in a way, does live on the mantelpiece. The who, the how, the what and why of both of her previous novels has really surprised me and they are books I love.

In particular, this line of the book description, "She can protect herself from the questions she's too afraid to ask. " really caught my attention. Along with the last line, the promise that something or somethings go wrong and Tess has to find her voice again, if she can, have me really eager to read Silence is Goldfish.



That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

South of Sunshine ~ Dana Elmendorf (earc) review [@DanaElmendorf @AlbertWhitman]

South of Sunshine
Albert Whitman
April 1, 2016
256 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

What is Kaycee willing to risk for the sake of love?
And what will she risk for acceptance?

In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson.

Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.

Kaycee McCoy just wants to keep her head down, find a boyfriend she can maybe stand for a more than a few weeks, finish her senior year and find some way to , even eventually, get out of Sunshine, Tennessee. Until then, she's going to have to ignore certain things. Well, certain things (like feelings, attraction, the truth about herself) and one girl in particular: Bren Dawson.

New girl Bren's arrival in Kaycee's life makes it so much harder to pretend, though - and Kaycee may no long want to.

I loved the setting of  South of Sunshine. There were quite a few things about Sunshine, Tennessee and its residents that I did not love, but I did love the portrayal of them, Kaycee's place in the community and what it all meant to her and who she was (and who she was willing to appear to be). There's a passage in the beginning that lets readers know how well Kaycee knows the town, that she knows this person and that shop and you can see how much she really loves it there.

There are things, of course, that she dislikes, has to ignore or wishes could be different. As much as she wants out of Sunshine, Tennessee it is still her home.

This novel is a very honest look at a teenage girl struggling with being gay, in the South. She doesn't believe being gay is wrong, but she also isn't proud of it or willing to admit it. She knows where she lives, who her mother is and what people would think. Or thinks she does.

I really appreciated that Kaycee's faith, her church attendance, and the role religion played in her life was so much a part of the story. She has spent nearly every Sunday morning of her seventeen years in a church pew. I love (love) that for this book accepting being gay was not synonymous with eschewing religion and/or God. Not only do I give Kaycee (and the author) points for making note of that there are other Levitical Laws, not just the oft cited one about homosexuality, but I thought she had some very astute thoughts on homosexuality and God.

I do have to say that, while I really enjoyed South of Sunshine, I don't think it was a pivotal book for me. I liked the characters, found them relatable, honest and enjoyed their stories but I don't know that it changed me. I can absolutely see, however, that for people in a different situation, South of Sunshine could be an important read.

Kaycee, Van, Bren, their friends and classmates, Sunshine, the high school, thee adults of the town, the racial, socioeconomic and sexual orientation divides are all very honest and true. Things aren't sugar-coated, Kaycee isn't just blown away by how, really, secretly, everyone is accepting and embracing of anyone gay. This book stays honest even when it's painful, but still somehow offers hope at the same time.







received, for review, from publisher via NEtGalley

Monday, March 28, 2016

Flawed ~ Cecelia Ahern (earc) review [@Cecelia_Ahern @FeiwelFriends @mackidsbooks]

Flawed (Flawed #1)
Feiwel and Friends
April 05, 2016
368 pagesadd to Goodreads/
buy from Book Depository
/or Amazon


Celestine North lives a perfect life. She's a model daughter and sister, she's well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she's dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.

She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything.

The idea of legislating or policing morality, is not something new. How it's done in Flawed is - or at least feels - that way, though.

Dystopian novels with authoritarian governments , strict societies, even our own histories has examples of rules, regulations or laws being made, ostensibly for the greater good, that work to separate a section of people from society. Whatever the intended goal was, it is rarely the (entire) outcome.

The premise of Flawed did feel a bit reminiscent of books like Delirium by Lauren Oliver where there's this 'good' thing being done, to help solve a problem they had and the main character accepts it's goodness, its rightness and doesn't think too much of 'outsiders.' I feel like that's its own archetype now, though. The characters themselves, what's being done and why, it's all very original.

I liked Celestine from the beginning. Her love of rules, logic, sense and being factually correct makes her view of the Guild, the Flawed, the whole system intriguing. It also leads to an incident that is interesting but also makes complete (yes) sense that is her 'mistake' and gets her into trouble.

The character we get in Celestine and the way that author Cecelia Ahern approaches not only what finding people Flawed means for society but also for an individual, is compelling, thought provoking and really pulls you into the story. It is one of those things that you want to say would never happen but (especially as its established and presented in the novel) you can see how it would.

The author does a great job showing how all facets of a persons life are impacted - some are definitely a surprise and places I wouldn't think would see effects. Celestine is a great character for the focus to be on. With her acceptance of the system and her belief in its rightness we're able to see, with much more frankness, just how wrong things are than if we'd had a 'rebel' main character.

I very much enjoyed Flawed, Celestine's character and growth we see in her, all while she stays true to that character we were first introduced to. While their society is not one I like, I love how fully the author has imagined it and brought it to life.  There was much more to Flawed than I anticipated and the ending - along with all that transpired up to that point - really has me ready to read Book 2!

(The last thing I want to say is that if Celestine reminded me of any other character, it was Katniss from The Hunger Games series. Though I won't tell you from which part of those books she minded me of her.)




Question: Wasn't The Book of Tomorrow supposed to be a YA book? (Or marketed to YA readers?)



Friday, March 25, 2016

The Visitor ~ Amanda Stevens (earc) review [@AmandaStevensTX @HarlequinBooks @MiraEditors]

The Visitor (Graveyard Queen #4)
Mira
March 29, 2016
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

My name is Amelia Gray. I'm the Graveyard Queen.

Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I'm starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead. Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve. For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings. Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.

Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll's disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle. For whatever reason, I'm being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead. Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity and a future with my love, John Devlin.

My reviews of the first three Graveyard Queen Books

The first three books in this series were released (and I read them) in 2011 and 2012 so it was a bit difficult for me to fall back into who the characters were, their relationships and what they'd experienced (and/or endured) already. There was maybe not as much of a refresher on the facts as I wanted, but I think it was still the right amount. It's enough that for you to get The Visitor and what's happening but not so much that it's too spoilery if you haven't read Books 1-3, yet.

It seems that if you read The Visitor soon (or sooner than I read it) after The Prophet you will get more out of Amelia and Devlin's relationship. You'll have a fuller picture of what they've experienced together and be able to appreciate that relationship more.

They are still a great balance for each other. Devlin can be a bit more reluctant, wanting to weigh the danger and any threats of a situation while wanting to keep Amelia safe. She's more likely to run headlong into something if it's a good mystery or what she thinks she needs to do. There's also a nice contrast - and balance - between Amelia who sees all of the ghosts (and other things) and Devlin who, we're not sure, may see them but won't admit it. She sees the ghost, he sees a shadow.

I liked that his past with Mariama is not fully resolved and, in some ways, looks to be getting even more complicated.

The way that Amelia's father's rules are restated in this book works nicely with the story. Even readers new to the series will understand what he's taught her and what following - or not following - the rules can mean for her. Yet, how it's worked into the story keeps it from being at all redundant.

The Visitor is a great blend of a ghost story, a mystery, a bit of romance, and  Southern Gothic. Perhaps it's the setting in this book, around Ezra Kroll, the cemetery and the new characters that make it feel more Gothic than the previous books. The new restoration, the new characters and the revelations about Amelia herself - and her past - make this a really great read.

The Graveyard Queen series is one you may have missed since the first three books were out in 2011 and 2012, but I highly recommend you check it out. I am already looking forward to The Sinner (#5)!







review copy received, thanks to publisher, through NetGalley

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Stone Field ~ Christy Lenzi (earc) review [@MacKidsBooks]

Stone Field
Roaring Brook Press
March 29, 2016
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


In a small town on the brink of the Civil War, Catrina finds a man making strange patterns in her family’s sorghum crop. He’s mad with fever, naked, and strikingly beautiful. He has no memory of who he is or what he’s done before Catrina found him in Stone Field. But that doesn’t bother Catrina because she doesn’t like thinking about the things she’s done before either.

Catrina and Stonefield fall passionately, dangerously, in love. All they want is to live with each other, in harmony with the land and away from Cat’s protective brother, the new fanatical preacher, and the neighbors who are scandalized by their relationship. But Stonefield can’t escape the truth about who he is, and the conflict tearing apart the country demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.

Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

I feel the need to say, first thing, that Stone Field was not the book for me. I had too many problems with the characters - well, Catrina and Stonefield, specifically - and the romance to enjoy this one.

The romance between Stonefield and Catrina is largely what Stone Field is about and it got off to a bad start for me and never got much better. It was not the two of them, "fall(ing) passionately, dangerously, in love," as the description states, it was instalove through and through. Before they've even really spoken to each other, they're in love.

Following that, I never felt like there were enough scenes between them, enough interaction for me to see or feel this monumental, epic love they supposedly had. Catrina seemed to be constantly telling us how much she need, loved, adored, thought about, longed for, etc Stonefield . . . but it felt more like telling than showing to me.

I did like some of Lenzi's writing when it came to Catrina's thousand ways of describing how much her soul needed Stonefield's soul. It was hard for me to get past some of the 'what' that was being said to appreciate the 'how' but the author had some great metaphors.

By far my biggest issue with Stone Field was Catrina. I couldn't figure out if she was incredibly selfish and self-centered, naive, flighty, oblivious to the world around her - and the people around her - stupid or some combination. Objectively I understood that she was depressed and troubled (her 'darkness' was almost overdone) but I (sorry!) couldn't stand her. She just wants to run around in the woods (in boy's clothing), make her 'wild work,' and, then, love Stonefield. Her lack of a purpose, complete obliviousness to the world around her (in 1861 on the brink of the Civil War, in a border state, with a best friend who's mother was Liberian and with a brother of enlistment age) stopped me from liking her desire not to be what society expected (even a little).

When you add in her propensity for getting naked, I just didn't think her character fit with the time period - even as someone who was unconventional.

I don't know what to say about Stonefield's character because I never really got a feel for him. First with his amnesia and the very few conversations of depth they seemed to have. Then, when he did begin to remember, Catrina shut him down so quickly (he was with her now, what did before matter?). I never got a sense of who he was.

I know that Henry is supposed to come across as her overbearing and over-zealous older brother, but I kind of understood where he was coming from. With their mother gone, their father getting older, a sorghum farm to run and the war coming, they can't handle Catrina not contributing and/or causing trouble.  I really do think I would have liked to read a book about Henry and about Effie. Henry had a lot to deal with and really seemed concerned about the approaching war and with the issues at stake. Effie was someone who challenged the norms (with her doctoring, being biracial but raised by her white father who expected her to be treated as though she were white) in ways I found intriguing.

As Catrina was so not my kind of character and the romance felt more instalove, Stone Field was not for me. I did appreciate some of the author's descriptions and metaphors; I will pay attention to what her next book is about.






review copy received, from publisher, via NetGalley

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No One Knows ~ J.T. Ellison (earc) review [@GalleryBooks @thrillerchick #NoOneKnows]

No One Knows
Gallery Books
March 22, 2016
368 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train and The Husband’s Secret, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

In No One Knows, the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. This masterful thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins will pull readers into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows
No One Knows gives you a thrilling mystery full of turns in an excellent way. From the beginning we know what Josh Hamilton, Aubrey's husband, missing for one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five days, has been officially declared dead. We know that he never made it to his friend's bachelor party, was never seen again. What we don't know is what happened to Josh.

Aubrey and her mother-in-law (former mother-in-law?) Daisy are our main characters in the present. They are fantastically different. Each cares for Josh, loves and misses him incredibly; how they feel about each other on the other hand . . .

In No One Knows we go back and forth in time and with different narrators. It really allows us to see who the different characters are, what their past (both the parts that overlap and those that don't) was like and seems to, sometimes, give us more insight into what happened the night Josh vanished.

The one thing I did dislike about the book was the several instances of drunken sex - usually with the girl/woman either the only one drunk of significantly more so. There's an argument that each was necessary for the plot and/or character but . . . It's one of my things.

I have to say that from the beginning I could barely stand Daisy. It's clear that she loves her son but the way that manifests - how she feels about Aubrey, how she treats others, the things we learn from the past about her - is not right. At times it was almost an inverse Oedipus complex (whatever that'd be called). J.T. Ellison does do a brilliant job keeping her a difficult, hard to like character but also showing us more of her history and some of her 'why's.

I loved that things that, in the beginning, were innocuous and innocent sounding, things that you hardly noticed or paid any mind, often took on more weight and were seen in a different light as the story unfolded.  At the outset, Aubrey is Josh's wife, technically now his widow and Daisy is his mother. As we read, we find out just what each of those roles may have meant for and to them (and Josh).

The characters, the events of that night, who did what and when, why they did what they did (or didn't do), all leaves you guessing - and often second guessing - things right up until the very, very end.

"Enthralling! Ellison's twisty, turny thriller is my kind of novel; interesting characters, complex plotting, and an ending you'll never see coming. Suspense at its finest!" Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Find Her






digital copy received for review, via NetGalley, from publisher

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 [@TheHungerGames @LGHomeEnt]

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Lionsgate
March 22, 2016
137 minutes; PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.
starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks
info on IMDb/buy from Amazon/or www.ownmockingjaypart2.com


As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance. (from IMDb)

Tomorrow, March 22nd, the fourth and final Hunger Games movie will be released on Blu-ray - and it is a great conclusion to the series.

I watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 this weekend (along with rewatching Catching Fire and Mockingjay - Part 1 to remind myself of exactly what had happened). Since I read Mockingjay in 2012 I can't speak to just how true to the book the movie is, but it felt as though it were - and Mockingjay - Part 2 definitely fits with the three previous movies.

If you haven't seen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, well if you haven't, you really ought to see at least that one before watching this one. If you have seen Part 1 then you will love how Part 2 continues the story. This movie picks up from Part 1 like it is simply a new scene yet there was a clear, marked ending to Part 1 and the opening scene of Part 2 is very much a beginning. Watched together, it would be like one long movie with an intermission, but each can be its own, distinct film.

The journey we've gone on with these films (as with the books) is great. In The Hunger Games we saw the hardships for Katniss, her family, and District 12 along with the opulence of the Capital. Then we saw the rebellion start to take shape and the war begin. Now, with knowledge of what the other districts have suffered, we see war come to the capital.

The film has the same aesthetic - though it's evolved to fit the story - of a sort of 1930s/1940s-meets-the-future-meets-wartime blend. The Capital is much larger (in area covered, size of buildings, land, etc) than I imagined and I really loved seeing it on screen. The cinematography, the costumes, the sets and locations and the wide shots of things all work together to really create a world and show it to you in the best possible way.

Katniss is probably my favorite in all of the movies (though Haymitch and Effie are right up there) and I loved her here, too. She's somehow both more emotional and more detached or removed. Her character's been hardened a bit, even from the events of Part 1.

The Hunger Games said something about violence and what people were capable of, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 expands on that, literally and figuratively. It's not just tributes in an arena anymore, but death, violence, war, rebellion, and betrayal are all still possible. We see even more of what people are capable of - good and bad - and what needs to be done.

If you have already seen The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay - Part 1 then you will definitely want to see - and own - this ending to the tale. If you haven't seen those already (or don't own them), there's The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection coming, too!




Also out tomorrow is The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection so you can have all four movies and make a day of it (well nine plus hours) . . .




Available March 22:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Digital (avail March 8)


The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection




About the releases:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Arrives on Digital HD on March 8 and on Blu-rayTM Combo Pack on March 22 with over 5 Hours of 

Special Features from Lionsgate 

Experience Katniss’s Journey from the Very Beginning 

The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection 

Also Arrives on Digital HD on March 8 

and on Blu-ray and DVD on March 22


SANTA MONICA, CA and VANCOUVER, BC (January 27, 2016) – Four years after Jennifer Lawrence first appeared on the big screen as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Lionsgate’s (NYSE: LGF) critically acclaimed series based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling book trilogy comes to a thrilling resolution in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, arriving on Digital HD March 8 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack + Digital HD, DVD + Digital, and On Demand March 22, the company announced today. In addition, for the first time ever, The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on March 22.

With $647 million worldwide box office and counting, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 set the world on fire and enthralled millions of devoted fans across the globe. With a critically acclaimed cast including Academy Award® winner Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress, Silver Linings Playbook, 2012), Josh Hutcherson (Journey to the Center of the Earth), Liam Hemsworth (The Expendables), Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson (Best Actor, The People vs. Larry Flynt, 1996), Emmy® nominee Elizabeth Banks (TV’s “Modern Family”), Academy Award® winner Julianne Moore (Best Actress, Still Alice, 2014), Academy Award® winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor, Capote, 2005), Golden Globe® winner Jeffrey Wright (HBO’s “Angels in America”), with Academy Award® nominee Stanley Tucci (Best Supporting Actor, The Lovely Bones, 2009), and Golden Globe® winner Donald Sutherland (Citizen X), The Hunger Games franchise is a worldwide phenomenon earning over $2.9 billion at the box office worldwide.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, who began her journey fighting to survive the brutal Hunger Games, and rose to lead the rebellion against Panem’s tyrannical president (Donald Sutherland). Now, Katniss and a team of rebels from District 13 prepare for the epic battle that will decide Panem’s future.

Based on the third novel in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, the must-own limited edition Blu-ray release is packed with over five hours of special features, including the “Pawns No More: Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” 8-part documentary – an in-depth look at the making of the film from production design, costumes, hair, make-up, stunts, special effects and post production. The documentary also includes a touching piece – from the last day of shooting – in which the cast reflects on their experience shooting the four films. Also included is a detailed look at Cinna’s sketchbook and a walk through the on-set photography along with audio commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson. The Blu-ray is encoded in Dolby TrueHD and features a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack, which delivers captivating sound that places and moves audio anywhere in the room, including overhead, to bring entertainment alive all around the audience. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 Blu-ray and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.

Also available for the first time as a set on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection includes The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 with all of the special features from each film’s initial release plus hours of all-new exclusive content including 13 never-before-seen deleted scenes from The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and two all-new featurettes: “Picturing Panem” and “Capitol Cuisine.” The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for the suggested retail price of $64.97 and $54.98, respectively.


THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 2 BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES*
·         Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson
·         “Pawns No More: Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” 8-Part Documentary**
o   Walking Through Fire (Concluding the Saga)
o   Real or Not Real (Visual Design)
o   High-Value Targets (The Acting Ensemble)
o   From Head to Toe (Costume, Make-up & Hair)
o   Navigating the Minefield (Production in Atlanta, Paris & Berlin)
o   Collateral Damage (Stunts, Special Effects & Weapons)
o   Tightening the Noose (The Post-Production Process)
o   A Different World (Reflections)
·         The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey
·         Cinna’s Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor
·         Panem on Display: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition
·         Jet to the Set**
*Subject to Change
**Exclusive to Blu-ray/ Digital HD

THE HUNGER GAMES COMPLETE 4-FILM COLLECTION BLU-RAY / DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*
·         Over 14 Hours of Bonus Content Including:
o   12 Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes from The Hunger Games
o   6 Deleted Scenes from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Including 1 Never Before Seen
o   9 Deleted Scenes from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
o   2 All-New Featurettes: “Picturing Panem” and “Capitol Cuisine”
o   70 Additional Featurettes (Blu-ray); 69 Additional Special Featurettes (DVD)
o   Audio Commentaries, Music Videos and More
*Subject to change


finished copy of the film received for an honest review; opinions are my own

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday [@lancerubinparty @AAknopf]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:



DENTON LITTLE'S BIRTHDATE (Denton Little #2) by Lance Rubin

You only live once—unless you’re Denton Little!

The good news: Denton Little has lived through his deathdate. Yay! The bad news: He’s being chased by the DIA (Death Investigation Agency), he can never see his family again, and he may now die any time. Huh. Cheating death isn’t quite as awesome as Denton would have thought…

Lance Rubin’s debut novel, Denton Little’s Deathdate, showed readers just how funny and poignant imminent death could be. Now in this sequel, he takes on the big questions about life. How do we cope, knowing we could die at any time? Would you save someone from dying even if they were a horrible person? Is it wrong to kiss the girl your best friend is crushing on if she’s really into you instead? What if she’s wearing bacon lip gloss?


published April 12th by Knopf Books for Young Readers*

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo


Why?

I really loved Denton Little's Deathdate, what Lance Rubin imagined for that novel and its character - and how it ended. It really has me looking forward to Denton Little's Birthdate (which looks like it's going to be as funny as the first book!).

I can't wait to see what Denton learns about deathdates and how his life is different now that he doesn't have a preassigned date with death. (Not to mention the DIA chasing him and not seeing his family.)

*edit: This is either Denton Little's Birthdate and out in April or Denton Little's Still Not Dead and not out until February 2017 . . . the internet has conflicting information


That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Drop of Night ~ Stefan Bachmann (earc) review [@Greenwillowbook @Stefan_Bachmann]

A Drop of Night
Greenwillow Books
March 15, 2016
464 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she's been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780's to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.

Or so she thought.

But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . .

A genre-bending thriller from Stefan Bachmann for fans of The Maze Runner and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.

You cannot escape the palace.

You cannot guess its secrets.

A Drop of Night was very different form what I was expecting, starting with main character Anouck. She's negative, mean, cynical depressed and anti-social. She doesn't always intend to be mean or harsh or grumpy, but she knows that's how she comes across.  She is also incredibly intelligent, fluent in several languages and excited to be getting away from her family for a while. Even if it is to an international location they know nothing about.

I liked getting glimpses at who she was, her family and that something had happened but not finding out what right away. It really makes you wonder about her character.

It all sounds so very amazing and intriguing. Sure, it all seems to involve a bit of cloak and dagger, keeping nearly everything secret even from the teens. That just makes it more special, right?

When things quickly go form secret-scholarly-mission to creepy-dangerous-game, Anouck and the others have to adapt and figure things out if they want to make it through the palace.

I loved that A Drop of Night kept me guessing so much. From what it seemed like the book was going to be in the beginning and through each of its many (many) twists and turns. I did, of course, wonder about these highly intelligent teenagers who known they're going somewhere different than their families believe and are okay with it. I supposed it was the prestige of what was promised them.

The secret, underground palace was pretty amazing. It was more elaborate than I was expecting and had much more to surprise the characters than I could have dreamed. Not only the existence of the palace but the different rooms, the amazing, beautiful things it hosts but those more sinister things, as well were pretty fantastic. The creation of the palace and how the teens must transverse it showed a lot of imagination.

I definitely understand the mentions of The Maze Runner and The Cabin in the Woods in the book's description. This is an exciting, action and adrenaline filled story with a different sort of main character. I loved it . . . until the ending. I really, really wanted to love the whole book but the ending was too quick and left (far) too many things unanswered. There were things about the palace, the characters what had happened to the five teens and about the plan that just did not add up  (in one case literally so). The ending was too quick and neat. If we had been given more information or if things had come together better, I really could have loved it.






received for review from publisher, via Edelweiss

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Serpent King ~ Jeff Zentner (earc) review [@randomhousekids @jeffzentner]

The Serpent King
Crown Books for Young Readers
March 8, 2016
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

This book. No, really, guys: This. Book.  This is a review where I can only hope i can convey at least a fraction of how brilliant, fantastic, amazing, unforgettable the book is.

I wanted to read The Serpent King from the first time I read its description. It is so, so, so much better than I had even wanted or expected, though.

I love not only the basis for Dill's character - the only child of the now imprisoned, snake-handling, poison drinking Pentecostal preacher and his young wife - but what that means for him personally and socially; as Dillard Early, Jr. his name alone brings judgement. Still, one of the things I truly loved and appreciated about Dill's character was that he wasn't rebelling or disavowing everything his father, his parents stood for.  Maybe he didn't think every aspect of his life (friends, views, books read, music listened to etc) needed to be Evangelical Christian-centric, but he was still religious, still prayed. Next to the way he struggles to do what his mother wants, to support her and keep her happy, it made Dill a really fantastic character for me.

I really enjoyed how the author treated the characters religion  but also their small town life: "People live quiet lives and that's okay. There's dignity in that, no matter what you may think." (pg 118) Not everyone in this book needed to be destined for giant, grand things, necessarily.

It works that each of the three friends doesn't fit in but is still quite different. Lydia wants out of their town as fast as possible, she's going to college and becoming something; Travis escapes his less than perfect reality with the Bloodfall fantasy books, content to work at the lumberyard to afford them; Dill can't go anywhere in town without being associated with his father but does his best to support his mother (including financial contributions).

The characters are so different but the author writes them flawlessly. Somehow it seems one person shouldn't be able to give us a character who gets tights as, "a gift from the Rodarte sisters," (pg 60) and one who wears a dragon necklace and carries a staff and not only make them friends but characters you love. (This author, of course, does.)

It was not only the characters, friendship the three had, their own, individual struggles, difficulties and secrets along with what they provided for the others, but the writing itself that made me love The Serpent King so much. Numerous times I had to remind myself that this was Jeff Zentner's debut novel. Maybe it's because he's a songwriter, as well, maybe he's just that good. Either way, I really can't wait to see what he writes next. (One of my favorite parts is the way Chapter 35 ends but it's too spoilery to quote.)

I cold probably make this even longer with reasons why I loved this book, but I won't. I will say that The Serpent King is well written, smart, understand, and emotional. The characters are superb and not people you see that often in fiction, especially not together. The Serpent King is definitely one of my favorite books.




Some Quotes:


"The rest of her wasn't ungraceful but her fingers were affirmatively ad aggressively graceful." (pg 7)

"'It kind of carries negative cachet,' Dill said.
'What he said. Not much high school cachet to be hd in being a female who has, you know, vocal opinions about anything." (pg 17)

"Her voice was soft, but not like a pillow. Like a pile of fine metal shavings or powdered glass." (pg 326)

"'Maybe we can help him sell firewood,' Lydia said. 'I can show some leg.'
'Yeah, but then people would stop to buy firewood and get a lecture about objectifying women.'
'So?'" (pg 351)




received for review, thanks to publisher, via NetGalley

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Save Me, Kurt Cobain ~ Jenny Manzer (earc) review [@jennymanzer @randomhousekids]

Save Me, Kurt Cobain
Delacorte Press
March 8, 2016
272 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father?

Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four—maternal abandonment isn't exactly something you can just get over. Staying invisible at school is how she copes—that and listening to alt music and summoning spirits on the Ouija board with her best friend and co-conspirator in sarcasm, Obe. But when a chance discovery opens a window onto her mom's wild past, it sparks an idea in her brain that takes hold and won't let go.

On a ferry departing Seattle, Nico encounters a slight blond guy with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded jacket. Something in her heart tells her that this feeling she has might actually be the truth, so she follows him to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. When she is stranded there by a winter storm, fear and darkness collide, and the only one who can save Nico might just be herself.

Save Me, Kurt Cobain does a fantastic job making the reader feel sad for, about and with main character Nico Cavan. From the way her mother disappeared when she was four to her relationship with her father, Verne, her lack of friends, all the way to her eventual  conclusion that the man she sees is Kurt Cobain - and he's her father.

Even if you can't always understand Nico's conclusions or how, exactly, she reaches them, they still do make a strange kind of sense. While still seeming pretty far-fetched if not downright absurd.

The book's first person narration does really bring you into Nico's mind, who she is, what she's experiencing and thinking. In the beginning, it was difficult to really get pulled into her story because it seemed to jump around. Not just in time, but she would talk about one subject, switch to another for a paragraph or more and then be back on the first thing. That did seem to improve as the book progressed.

The first person narration also made it hard, if not impossible, to get an objective idea of how Nico's thinking should be seen. It was hard to know if you should be as worried about her, her decisions and mental state as you were. If it was supposed to be an 'okay' (or relatively so) mindset that just wasn't clicking with me or a troubled, sad, possibly unstable cast or characters and decisions.

The ending wrapped things up a bit quickly for me and I am still wondering just how I feel about Nico and Save Me, Kurt Cobain. The author absolutely came up with a unique character and storyline and really makes you feel for (or with) the character.






review copy received, thanks to publisher, from NetGalley

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Where You'll Find Me ~ Natasha Friend (earc) review [@IAmMortified @mackidsbooks @fsgbooks]

Where You'll Find Me
Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR)
March 08, 2016
272 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


""Natasha Friend, I loved your book. I was hooked from the first page." —Judy Blume

The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself...
DUMPED by her best friend Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade "hanging out with different people."
DESERTED by her mom, who's in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
TRAPPED in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
STUCK at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.

But what if all isn't lost? What if Anna's mom didn't exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna's stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn't such a bad fit after all? With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.
I didn't just love this book, I loved the characters, too. I was going to say I loved Anna . . . then add that I loved Marnie . . . then add that I loved Shawna, so really I just love them all.

From the very first paragraph,
"I USED TO THINK your friends were your friends no matter what, but that’s not how it works. There is elementary school, and then there is middle school, where suddenly all the rules change and no one tells you how to play and the only thing you know for sure is that you are losing. Everything about you is wrong: your hair, your personality, your jeans."
I was pulled in by Anna and her narration. Whether it's thinking about her (ex) best friend Danielle, her mother's mental health, her father's new wife and baby or what it all means for her, Anna has a very captivating narration. She's incredibly frank, straightforward way of seeing things. It's at once incredibly informative - about the actual event, person, place, thing Anna's talking about but also her life in general - and very poignant, too.

"What about mothers who try to kill themselves? Do they love their children less? This is the question I need answered--the thought I can't stop thinking." (pg 73) You get Anna's insecurity over what happened, sometimes even her guilt, but also that honesty, those questions she has that don't hide behind what's more acceptable or correct. Even as she's telling the world she's fine, we see the truth in her thoughts.

(Read an excerpt from Where You'll Find Me here on the publisher's page and see what I mean.)

I know I said I love all of the characters, but I may need to amend that a little bit because I didn't love Anna's dad. It's easy to see, especially once more details are given, how her parent's divorce and her father's remarriage were so hard on Anna. It made me want to dislike her stepmother Marnie, but I really couldn't. I didn't even dislike her dad, just wanted to give him a bit more sense.

Eighth grade characters can be a little young for YA books, but with Anna and Where You'll Find Me, it's the perfect fit. With Anna's age, what she's dealing with both at home and school, what's happening socially and all of the questions Anna has, it's the perfect time to meet her and hear her story.

Anna is dealing with more than a lot as she starts eighth grade and Where You'll Find Me could be depressing, but it isn't; it's funny and sweet, honest and real and even hopeful. Don't miss out on Where You'll Fine Me.





review copy received, via NetGalley, thanks to publisher

Waiting On Wednesday [@saaaranotsarah @VikingBooks]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:


NEVER EVER by SARA SAEDI

Wylie Dalton didn’t believe in fairy tales or love at first sight.

Then she met a real-life Peter Pan.

When Wylie encounters Phinn—confident, mature, and devastatingly handsome—at a party the night before her brother goes to juvie, she can’t believe how fast she falls for him. And that’s before he shows her how to fly.

Soon Wylie and her brothers find themselves whisked away to a mysterious tropical island off the coast of New York City where nobody ages beyond seventeen and life is a constant party. Wylie’s in heaven: now her brother won’t go to jail and she can escape her over-scheduled life with all its woes and responsibilities—permanently.

But the deeper Wylie falls for Phinn, the more she begins to discover has been kept from her and her brothers. Somebody on the island has been lying to her, but the truth can’t stay hidden forever.


published June 21st by Viking Books for Young Readers

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo // or Amazon


Why?

First:


Second, for the actual reasons: There have been more than a few books where it's only children/teens in a society, though usually through some sort of disease/apocalyptic/dystopian set-up. To have that 'no one older than seventeen' element (and all that a lack of adults, growing up, etc entails) paired with flying (flying!!) and the Peter Pan tale sounds brilliant.

Then when you add in Wylie who, with her brother going to juvie, is not quite the Disney animated Wendy and the lies, there's something beyond the fluff that a straight retelling would suggest. I am really excited for this one.

(Oh, and I really want to see what sort of relationship there is between Wylie and her brothers and whether their parents are around, etc.)


That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!
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